London – Five days and a club-record transfer have done much to put some light back into David Moyes’ eyes at Manchester United.
The dead man’s stare that followed last Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final shambles at home to Sunderland has gone.
Moyes, however, knows the scale of the task facing him at Old Trafford in the months to come.
The nature of his team’s decline has perhaps surprised everybody but him and so, among the usual buoyant chatter of a big-money press conference yesterday, there was a warning that the arrival of £37million Juan Mata from Chelsea will not catapult United back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League on its own.
“I’ve got a big job to do here and a couple of new signings isn’t all that’s needed,” said Moyes. “There’s a bigger job to be done, but you have to start somewhere.
“If you asked me what I needed most, I would have said a central midfielder and a left back. But sometimes you don’t always get the pieces of the jigsaw at the time.
“This is what I have been trying to allude to. I hoped something would come up in this window that we wanted and, thankfully, we got it but, no, Juan can’t solve everything. What the transfer will do, though, is help improve results.”
If United’s manager sounded a little downbeat, he wasn’t. Moyes is thrilled that United have managed to take a major footballer from Chelsea, a serious opponent. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear him say on Monday that other positions were the priority.
Mata looks a signing to adorn the icing of an undercooked cake. This United team need to win the ball more readily and keep it for longer.
They have been the fundamental issues at Old Trafford for two-and-a-half seasons and Mata, at least, can help Moyes with one of them. Certainly the Spaniard’s appearance in the No 8 shirt against Cardiff this evening can only stir the spirits of a club who had perhaps begun to wonder if adventurous, attacking football was becoming the preserve of other clubs.
“We’ve had a problem at Old Trafford of making and scoring goals,” said Moyes. “That’s been our biggest downfall.
“It’s not necessarily been about conceding goals or how we’ve been away from home. It’s just that, when we’ve been at Old Trafford, we’ve tended not to be as clinical or make as many opportunities as we would have liked.
“With Juan, one or two of the players have said to me, ‘What a great signing, we can’t wait to play with him’. From what I’ve seen with him in training – and it’s only been a couple of days – I’m pleased we’ve got him.
“I have been without Wayne Rooney for about a month, Robin (van Persie) for two months, and I think, if I’d had Juan in that period, I’d more than likely have had better results.”
Rooney is also expected to be involved against Cardiff, but Van Persie may have to wait a little longer.
At least he and another long-term casualty, Marouane Fellaini, trained at Carrington on Monday.
Moyes will be feeling better for that – as he will if winnable games against Cardiff, Stoke City and Fulham yield the nine points that would take United closer to the top four.
Last Wednesday night against Sunderland was his lowest point at the club and one gets the feeling he is glad it is behind him.
“Football is littered with disappointments and, through your career, you’ll always look back and see disappointments,” he said. “The Sunderland night will always be a big one to me.
“In the back of my mind, even before the Sunderland game, I knew that we probably had the chance of making a good signing in Juan but even that didn’t make me feel any better.
“We hadn’t qualified for the Capital One Cup final which, in truth, we should have done.”
Mata himself would appear to have the temperament to thrive at United.
On Monday he repeated his belief that United can still win the Premier League (I wouldn’t place any bets if I were him) and he seems genuinely delighted to have swapped one big English club for another.
Perhaps most endearing was the 24-year-old’s thrill at being whizzed up from London to Manchester in a helicopter on Saturday. Few Premier League footballers are so easily impressed.
“What I like the most about Manchester United is that they brought me here by helicopter,” he said. “Not many clubs would have done that.”
Nice words indeed, but Mata should not get too carried away. United’s away journeys to London in the Premier League begin and end in rather more austere surroundings – a train platform at Macclesfield. – Daily Mail